Updates on the United States Drug Shortage & Its Impact on Mesothelioma

Six small empty vials are lined up. The left-most are tipping into the others, like dominoes. Text reads "Drug Shortage Update."

In early 2023, several chemotherapy drugs were added to the United States drug shortage list. This led to delays in treatment for some cancer patients, including those battling mesothelioma. As of 2024, the shortage continues.

Of concern for patients with mesothelioma and other cancers is the low stock of 2 common chemotherapy drugs. These drugs are often a first-line treatment for mesothelioma and have extended survival for thousands of patients. What should mesothelioma patients expect if these drugs are not readily available?

Carboplatin and Cisplatin Still in Short Supply

Cisplatin and carboplatin remain difficult for providers to get for their patients. For some, this may lead to delays in treatment. Providers may also choose a different mesothelioma treatment option or drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps an updated list of drug shortages. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists maintains a similar list with more details about the causes and potential end dates of shortages.

Carboplatin and cisplatin are 2 of 15 cancer drugs on the FDA’s drug shortage list. According to manufacturers, this shortage is largely due to manufacturing and supply chain issues. Many mesothelioma patients have chemo treatment plans that include these 2 drugs.

The shortage of these drugs may affect mesothelioma patients undergoing treatment. For instance, the shortage may have led to appointment rescheduling for some patients. It may also cause worry for patients about their prognosis and treatment.

But luckily, mesothelioma doctors are dedicated to finding solutions for their patients. These solutions may include choosing other treatments and drugs. Some doctors may also ration their supplies of these chemo drugs. This helps patients to continue receiving some of their planned doses.

Mesothelioma patients may wonder what to expect for themselves. Each case will be different, depending on various individual factors. But in general, some treatment plan adjustments are more common than others.

Potential Treatment Adjustments for the Cancer Drug Shortage

Patients may experience any of the following changes to their expected treatment plans:

  • Alternative chemo drugs: Doctors may recommend different drugs, especially for patients considered unlikely to respond to the lower stock medications.
  • Extended treatment cycles: Repeat doses may occur at slightly longer intervals, such as four weeks instead of three.
  • Lower but still effective doses: Patients may receive slightly lower chemotherapy doses than usual.
  • Referrals to alternate care centers: Doctors may refer some patients to other treatment providers with the drugs in stock.

Is There an Official Plan to Fix the Shortage?

In September 2023, the White House spoke on the shortage. It presented plans of action to increase the stock of cisplatin and carboplatin. They worked closely with the FDA and drug manufacturers. While their initiatives helped, these and other drugs are still in limited supply.

More action in the future may help reduce the shortage. For now, doctors and cancer centers are doing their best to limit the effect these shortages have on patients. The drug shortages vary by region and cancer center.

Patients or their loved ones who are worried about these drug shortages can talk to their medical providers or care teams. Together, they can work through the shortage and find a solution.